Remembering an Air Force Nurse Killed in a Vietnam War Airlift

This Memorial Day weekend, as we remember all nurses who have served in the U.S. military, we spotlight one, Air Force Captain Mary Klinker, who died in a plane crash outside Saigon during the final days of the Vietnam War. She was the only member of the U.S. Air Force Nurse Corps—and the last military nurse—to die in that war.

Capt. Klinker had volunteered to work aboard the first flight of a mission, Operation Babylift, ordered by President Gerald Ford’s administration in the weeks before the fall of Saigon (now called Ho Chi Minh City). The aim was to move 2,000 South Vietnamese orphans and displaced children to the Philippines and then the United States for adoption.

In addition to Capt. Klinker, more than 300 passengers, including Air Force personnel, Defense Attaché Office employees, and about 250 children, filled the troop compartment and cargo area of the C-5 cargo plane on April 4, 1975. Children were placed together in seats and cardboard boxes. Soon after leaving the airport near Saigon, a substantial malfunction in the rear of the plane led to a forced landing in a field. About 130 passengers, many of whom were in the cargo area, died. Capt. Klinker was caring for children in that […]

2017-05-26T13:22:46+00:00 May 26th, 2017|Nursing, nursing history|0 Comments

Women’s History and Nursing’s History

This year’s theme of Women’s History Month, which we celebrate each March, is focused on women’s achievements in business and the labor force, but we don’t need this reason to take time out to remember the strong women who have shaped nursing. We certainly have many of them.

As I wrote in an editorial marking women’s history month in 2015:

Most people still don’t understand all that nurses have done—and continue to do—to improve health care. Most would likely recognize the name of Florence Nightingale. But I wonder if any other nurses would come to mind. I wonder how many nonnurses know that Lillian Wald developed the community health system (she founded New York City’s Henry Street Settlement), pioneered public health and school nursing, and helped establish the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; or that Florence Wald (no relation to Lillian) brought hospice care to the United States; or that it was Kathryn Barnard’s research that established the beneficial effects of rocking and heartbeat sounds on premature infants, which is why most neonatal ICUs and newborn nurseries contain rocking chairs.

Lillian Wald and other notable nurse pioneers, 1923 March 2015 cover showing Lillian Wald and others at Henry Street Visiting Nurse Service, 1923.

Despite gains in professionalism and education, nurses still are not well represented on governing boards—and we should be. Our proven record of innovation and creative problem-solving and our intimate knowledge […]

Nurses and Patient Safety: Parallel Histories

Photo from AJN archives.

I’m especially pleased that one of the CE articles in the February issue focuses on nursing’s role in creating a safe environment for patients: “Nursing’s Evolving Role in Patient Safety.” And in full disclosure, I was excited to see that the authors used the AJN archives to chronicle how nursing addressed (or didn’t address) safety issues around patient care.

From the earliest days of nursing through to the current complex systems in which we practice, nurses have been the health professionals responsible for ensuring safe passage of patients through the health care system. From Nightingale’s criteria for creating a healing environment to the “5 rights of medication administration,” patients rely on nurses to act as sentinels.

The authors reviewed 1,086 AJN articles from 1900 to 2015 and conducted a content analysis to identify patient safety themes. Aside from uncovering many fascinating (and sometimes alarming!) details of former health care practices, the authors drew this general conclusion:

“Emphasis on patient safety increased as patient care became more complex. As nurses developed a professional identity, they often put a spotlight on safety concerns and solutions.”

Here’s a quote from a nurse who wrote in 1908 about nurses’ duties: […]

Black History in AJN: From Booker T. Washington To Today’s Influential Voices

Black nurses at Camp Sherman, Chillicothe, Ohio, in 1918.

Acknowledging Black History Month

February is the month designated for remembering the contributions of black people to our nation and our culture. It’s a good reminder that in nursing, too, we have benefited from many strong black women (and at least a few men), who often persevered in the face of discrimination in obtaining education and jobs.

The AJN archives have several articles worth revisiting.

This article from 1976, “Black Nurses : Their Service and Their Struggle” (to read, click on the pdf), describes the struggles of several of our profession’s notable black nurses, including Mary Mahoney (the first black nurse to be licensed).

In a 2010 editorial, Alicia Georges, professor and chairperson of the department of nursing at Lehman College of the City University of New York, writes, “We all stand to benefit from the active participation of black nurses in our communities and our lives.”

A 2013 commentary by Kenya Beard (an AJN editorial board member) and Kellie Voicy speaks to the need for increasing minority representation in nursing.

And a jewel: an article by Booker T. Washington, published in 1910, on nurses’ training at Tuskegee.

The above articles will be free until March 1. Please read them and become informed and inspired.

10 Lessons Learned from Clara Barton’s Life and Work

By Jean Johnson, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor and founding dean (retired) at the George Washington University School of Nursing, member of the Red Cross National Nursing Committee, and Linda MacIntyre, PhD, RN, chief nurse of the American Red Cross

Clara Barton at desk in Red Cross headquarters Clara Barton at desk in Red Cross headquarters

This is the final post in the Clara Barton Study Tour series. There have been many lessons learned during the tour. All of the participants have agreed to take what we learned and reflect on how our lives have been changed by this trip and what we are going to do to use what we learned to further the humanitarian work of Clara and the Red Cross.

For reasons mentioned in previous posts, this tour was very emotional, as well as informative. Here are ten lessons we learned from our investigation into Clara Barton’s career and its continuing implications for ongoing efforts in the U.S. and internationally.

  1. Clara Barton was resilient and a renegade, transforming some of her biggest fears and bouts of depression into constructive humanitarian action.
  2. Clara was a superb logistician, gathering goods and transporting them during the Civil War and during disasters in the U.S. and internationally, such as her relief work in the Franco-Prussian War.
  3. Clara was tenacious. If she did not get what she wanted, she kept at it. When trying to meet with President Lincoln about establishing the Missing Soldiers […]